Playing scrabble with my mother

She makes sense of words
through the filter of sounds
that are not the same to me

So the words are not
as I usually understand them
I say, Which i do you mean?

Is it i with a dot or ai for apple?
It all sounds the same to her
like versions of blue in Russia

Or my yanny to your laurel
or how in Hungary, my friend said
they describe the sky as azure-green

The afternoon turns Prussian blue
and she says, I have strange dreams
where I am my father’s daughter

I say, But that’s you––you know
and she says, But you’re there too
then she clarifies

It’s like, I am the daughter and you
are the mother, in words I hear
but can no longer parse

Ann Shenfield

Listen to Ann reading ‘Playing scrabble with my mother’ (0:56).


Ann Shenfield has worked as an animation filmmaker, illustrator and writer. Her animated films have received numerous prizes, including selection to the Official Competition at the Berlin Film Festival. Her poetry has also received various prizes, including the Judith Wright Poetry Award for her collection You Can Get Only So Close on Google Earth.

© text and audio 2020